O2 Claims 4G First With Plan For 2012 London Trials


O2 is setting up a 40 square kilometre LTE test network in the capital next year

O2 has launched the first ever 4G network in London as part of what it calls the largest Long Term Evolution (LTE) trial in the UK.

Twenty-five locations, including Westminster, Canary Wharf and the O2, will go live before the summer of 2012 to form a total network area of around 40 square kilometres.

London Calling

One thousand individuals are expected to participate in the nine-month trial, which will have the support of a number of partners, including retailer John Lewis and the O2 Arena.

Testers will be provided with Samsung mobile broadband dongles capable of supporting speeds of up to 100Mbps. O2 claims that the network is comparable to a fibre-optic landline connection and quick enough to download a 500MB file in less than one minute.

The performance data and feedback collected during the trial will be used to influence O2’s plans for its commercial 4G network, which will be launched following Ofcom’s 4G spectrum auction.

“Today’s launch of the UK’s first 4G London trial network demonstrates our commitment to delivering 4G to our customers at the earliest opportunity,” said Ronan Dunne, CEO of Telefonica UK, “The work we are doing now will lay the foundations for our commercial 4G network when it launches in the UK.

“O2 has been at the heart of the mobile data explosion over the last three years and our priority has always been to build ahead of the curve,” he continued. “Our work in London will give us a better understanding of the capabilities of 4G technology and will allow us to explore the superfast benefits it will bring to people and industry across the UK.”

Trial and Error

Everything Everywhere and BT started a similar project in Cornwall last month while O2 has been holding its own LTE trial in Slough since 2009. It has deemed the experiment to be a success, claiming that the network is capable of handling the same volume of mobile traffic as its entire UK 3G network.

O2 has been critical of Ofcom’s plans for the auction of the 4G spectrum, which has been delayed in favour of a second consultation process, despite claims to the contrary.

Finland, Germany and Sweden already have 4G networks and the EU has told member states they they must clear the 800MHz band for mobile broadband before 2013. However the UK is unlikely to have a nationwide service before 2017, a delay which could cost British businesses up to £730 million a year.

“The forthcoming spectrum auction is a watershed moment for the UK mobile industry,” said Dunne. “We are actively engaged in the auction and are supportive of a fair process that meets the Government’s and Ofcom’s planned timeline.”

The announcement was welcomed by the Secretary of Culture, Media, Olympics and Sport, Jeremy Hunt: “We welcome O2’s 4G trial in London, which is a positive example of how firms are continuing to invest in, and develop, the type of communications services that will keep the UK at the forefront of the digital revolution. Initiatives such as this London trial support the government’s objective of stimulating innovation, as well as investing in delivering long run economic growth for the UK.”


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